Darryl Kaplan wrote a thought-provoking piece in last month's Trot called "Stop Being So Polite". In a nutshell, he focuses on the commentating in our sport, and the lack of criticism that we see on a daily basis.
"There is nothing more mesmerizing and attention grabbing than a well-crafted critical review. From your favourite urban affairs columnist to your beloved colour commentator, to Simon Cowell, the American Idol judge that convinces you and millions like you to tune in week after week, criticism is appealing – especially when the words uttered are accurate.", says Kaplan.
He is completely right about this, and over the years it has gotten worse and worse. Like the new revamped Race Night on the Score, we need change in this regard. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical of a drive, ride or trainer decision. If a quarterback makes a terrible throw resulting in an interception, John Madden would not say, "he is just having a bad day. He must have missed the defender. He is a really nice guy." He would tell it like it is and say the throw stunk. If he did not, we would turn down the sound, and he would certainly not have his name on a video game.
Several years ago during a harness broadcast, Woodbine's Mike Hamilton did just that - criticize a drive. It was an elimination race and the heavy chalk was brought right to the back - on national television. Hamilton questioned the tactics. All that brought him was a driver who refused to be interviewed.
I notice things are a little better today. For example, on my twitter page where I follow harness peeps (I get my thoroughbred stuff on another twitter avenue), I notice when something strange happens Ken Middleton states his opinion. Recently, he posted (after a race where it looked like there was an infraction) "Why no inquiry?". In the truest sense of the word we have a WEG employee questioning an ORC judge. In the real sense of the word we have a guy who is watching a race and giving the twinky-verse an opinion; one that is wanted and needed.
Outside the media, if you want a little no-holds barred opinion, there are others on Twitter commentating just fine. Try Benny Beam if you are interested in the WEG circuit.
Speaking of people like Benny, I sat in on a round table recently about racing. One of the participants was Allan Kirschenbaum, who is well known to many in the sport. He stated a very similar opinion. In fact, he even mentioned a name or two that he would like to see on a weekly broadcast, calling it like they see it. He mentioned a couple of controversial people (believe it or not) from chatboards. I am not sure you want to go that far, but I think both he and Kaplan make a strong point.
We often say here that we are not cheerleaders. If a horse is not as good as the hype, we'll say we think so. If a drive was no damn good, we say the same. Why should healthy criticism and debate be left only to twitter and blogs in our sport?
Note: If you play WEG on twitter, please follow the WEG Handicapping list if interested.